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Improving Great Thanksgiving Prayers 5

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This post follows my reflection on

In reflecting on the quality of a Eucharistic Prayer (a Great Thanksgiving), here are some of the things I’m looking out for:

  • Clearly a prayer of thanksgiving – consecrating by the community giving thanks (led by the gathered community’s presider) for the great acts of God
    • following the Jewish Berakah structure (Praise – Proclaim – Petition – Praise)
  • Easily-remembered, consistent responses and acclamations (so preferably poetic and singable) for the gathered community so that they are not focusing on a book (or a projector screen)
  • Inclusive and expansive language
  • A prayer that flows well, keeps to a consistent tone, and has a broad enough theology to cover acceptable interpretations

Let’s look at another Eucharistic Prayer authorised or allowed in the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia.

A Form for Ordering the Eucharist (p.512)

The Episcopal Church has two Forms as frameworks (TEC’s BCP p402-5) which enables the construction of a Eucharistic Prayer for use on a special occasion. NB “It is not intended for use at the principal Sunday or weekly celebration of the Holy Eucharist.” (TEC’s BCP p400)

This is the obvious inspiration for A Great Thanksgiving for Special Occasions of 1984, incorporated into A New Zealand Prayer Book He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa (NZPB/HKMA) pp512ff and revised in Alternative Great Thanksgiving E.

New Zealand originally had TEC’s concern to maintain some sense of common prayer by inserting the rubric that “It is intended for special occasions and not for the regular celebration of the Eucharist” (1984). For NZPB/HKMA (1989), that was reduced to “…for the regular Sunday celebration of the Eucharist.” This limitation has more recently been removed. Welcome to the Anglican Church of Or.

Rather than being drafted with the specific purpose in mind of providing a framework for people to build on, NZ’s Form was based on a Eucharistic Prayer by Rev. Dr. Ken Booth originally produced for communion with the sick [see endnote 38 in my thesis p170].

The preface gives thanks to God for the work of creation, God’s self revelation, and for the salvation of the world through Christ. Any suitable words may be used.

There is no mention of the Benedictus (“Blessed is he who comes…”) but the rubric, “If the Sanctus is to be included, it is introduced with these or similar words” can be interpreted permissively to not exclude the Benedictus. In fact any acclamation could be put in this place. Another acclamation can follow the Last Supper story.

Possibly surprisingly, this Eucharistic Prayer has us declaring that to God indeed be glory, why? because of the Last Supper.

The words of the anamnesis and epiclesis are fixed.

There is an unusual concept:

Strengthen us to do your work,
and to be your body in the world.

Remember, the Eucharistic Prayer is addressed to the First Person of the Trinity (“All this we ask through your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom with you and the Holy Spirit be all honour and glory…”) The normal metaphor is that we, the Church, are the Body of Christ in the world. Here, however, we are praying that we might be the body of the First Person of the Trinity in the world. This is not the only place in NZPB/HKMA that Trinitarian theology slides a bit. Acting as God’s body in the world can be understood in an orthodox manner; I still would have preferred, “Strengthen us to do your work,
and to be Christ’s body in the world.”

Looking (beyond agreed responses and acclamations) at the gendered words of ‘Father’, ‘Lord’, and ‘Son’, only the word ‘Son’ is required to be used in this Form and that twice, in both cases unnecessarily so (“…on the night before Jesus died, he took bread… that we may be fed with the body and blood of Christ…”)

I wrote Eucharistic Prayers based on this Form so that these are allowed to be used in the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia:

Eucharistic Prayer 1 from Celebrating Eucharist
This prayer is a new composition which was written to provide some complementary images.

Eucharistic Prayer 2 from Celebrating Eucharist
Eucharistic Prayers are often criticised for their repetitiveness. This prayer was written, in part, as an attempt to avoid this.

Eucharistic Prayer 3 from Celebrating Eucharist
This prayer is modeled on one found in the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus (early third century). This ancient eucharistic prayer is used widely as a basis for many modern eucharistic prayers in different denominations.

Eucharistic Prayer 4 from Celebrating Eucharist
This prayer is based on an ecumenical prayer with its source in the liturgy of St. Basil.

I will look at this Form’s revision next time.

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2 thoughts on “Improving Great Thanksgiving Prayers 5”

    1. Thanks, Peter, for this important observation!

      In this framework for a Eucharistic Prayer, although the exemplar omits reference to sin in the ‘preface’, “The presiding priest [you know, I would have put presiding bishop or priest] now gives thanks for the salvation of the world through Christ” gives room for the presider to mention sin, what Christ saves us from. But it is not a requirement to do so. It has been surprisingly omitted from the Last Supper story here – did anyone raise this issue at the Prayer Book Commission, meeting of General Synod, ratifying diocesan synods…?

      This becomes a more significant issue in its revision: Alternative Great Thanksgiving E where the presider cannot even insert reference to sin. You will remember this revised prayer was one of the ones rushed through authorisation when our Church suddenly acknowledged that it had been revising liturgy illegally for decades!

      You may also be interested that the TEC form on which our form is based clearly includes sin as does the South African form which follows ours.


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